Earlier this year, Bobbie Mozden told Ellington Township Clerk Joddy Ehrenberg that she could do her job better – and that she would.
Nancy Zuzula claims Michael Clinesmith, clerk, Vassar Township, is childish, “has not been doing his job,” and “lies to our residents.”
Bob Dickson says Novesta Township Clerk Joann Peters has a “dictator attitude” and “is very rude” and regularly bursts into “fits of rage” during board meetings.
And Mozden, Zuzula, and Dickson aren’t just talking – they’re doing something about it in form of challenging the respective incumbents Ehrenberg, Clinesmith, and Peters in Tuesday’s general election.
Sure, these aren’t the only races for the clerk position in Tuscola County (Bill Galka is taking on Peggy Reavey in Almer Township; Katie Gebhardt vs. Sarah Donovan in Fairgrove Township, see full list of Tuscola County candidates at http://bit.ly/2eNs3iu ), but they certainly feature
many of the most passionate and outspoken candidates in Tuesday’s election.
“She’s just not approachable, or professional,” Mozden said of her opponent, Ehrenberg. “And I think that’s lost in today’s society and I’m tired of it. I want to bring it back.”
Ehrenberg did not respond to a request from The Advertiser for an interview.
According to the Michigan Township Association website, a township clerk’s duties include (but are not limited to): maintaining custody of all township records and general ledger; records and maintains township meeting minutes; is responsible for special meeting notices; publishes board meeting minutes (if taxable value is $82 million in 2016, annually indexed, or a charter township); keeps voter registration file and conducts elections.
“I said to (Ehrenberg) ‘I can do your job – and as a matter of fact, I’m going to do your job,’” Mozden said.
Mozden says she’s also heard of instances where Ehrenberg has been rude to the public when simple requests are involved, such as when asking for information about permits.
One particularly vivid moment came earlier in the year when Ellington Township resident Mike Pattullo wanted to get up and give a presentation about wind turbines.
“She said ‘If you’re going to present the same thing you presented last time, I don’t want to hear it,’” Mozden said. “She cut him off at the knees. She did not want him to present what he wanted to present…they work for us. They work for the public.”
Mozden said she plans to return a level of personal and professional conduct to the clerk’s position.
“Our township doesn’t have a website. Why?” Mozden said. “Because Joddy doesn’t want to handle it because it scares her.”
Ellington isn’t the only township with a heated clerk battle, either.
Vassar Twp. feud resumes
Nancy Zuzula lost to Vassar Township Clerk Michael Clinesmith in the August Republican Party primary election when she sought to unseat him.
The township’s 2,912 registered voters, however, can come to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to choose Zuzula – running as a write-in candidate – over Clinesmith, whose name is on the ballot.
Clinesmith, a Republican elected clerk in 2011 after voters recalled Renae Schnettler, appointed Zuzula as his deputy clerk in 2014. But he took away her key to the clerk’s office this summer, saying he needs a deputy clerk “who’s going to do things right and who’s going to listen to me.”
Township Supervisor Robert Forbes has endorsed Zuzula in the clerk’s race. Zuzula, who has been appointed deputy supervisor by Forbes and hired as a secretary by the township board of trustees, calls Clinesmith “a very misguided person” who doesn’t do his job.
“He works eight hours a week and wants a raise each year,” Zuzula stated in a letter to The Advertiser, also accusing Clinesmith of wasting taxpayer money by needlessly calling police to the township hall on several occasions.
Clinesmith “lies to our residents, makes accusations that have no facts to back up, lies to the Board of Trustees and holds on to information meant for the board’s review,” Zuzula alleged in her letter.
Clinesmith, however, wrote in a Nov. 2 letter to The Advertiser that he has worked hard “to stand for honesty, transparency, integrity and holding people working at the Township accountable” to township residents.
Clinesmith alleges Forbes has violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act by not turning over emails from the supervisor’s township email account. Clinesmith also maintains township officials violated federal law by withholding employment applications of two township residents before hiring Zuzula as secretary.
“Forbes and Zuzula are working together as a team as Supervisor and Secretary to cover up their actions by withholding documents and refusing to work with me to take care of Township business,” Clinesmith wrote.
Bad behavior in Novesta?
In Novesta Township, the two clerk candidates accuse each other of bad manners. Bob Dickson, a challenger seeking the clerk’s job, hopes the township’s 998 registered voters will oust Joann M. Peters, whom Dickson claims regularly exhibits “fits of rage” during township meetings.
Peters “has a dictator attitude and is very rude,” wrote Dickson, running as a candidate with no party affiliation.
“She openly admits she’s only there for the money,” Dickson wrote. “She screams at people a lot. She disrespects everybody including our township supervisor and our township treasurer.”
Peters, the Novesta clerk since 2008, claims Dickson “continually interrupts the proceedings, answers questions (in error) posed by other audience members to board members, interrupts other audience members when they are speaking, and argues with other audience members.”
Peters said she has heard from several people through the years who don’t attend Novesta Township meetings due to Dickson’s behavior.
Peters states the primary “and probably most important duty” of a township clerk is to run elections. Peters wrote she has traveled to Lansing to receive training and obtain access to computer software to maintain voter registration files.
Her training and the access to software “have proved to be invaluable tools for maintaining our voter registration rolls and have eased the voting process tremendously,” Peters wrote.
Dickson additionally alleges that Peters once stormed out of a township board meeting, writing “I Resign” on a piece of paper before rushing out the door “leaving an open meeting going with no Clerk to take minutes.”
Novesta Township owns no township hall or office. While Dickson alleges Peters operates as Novesta Township clerk at her private business in Caro – where Dickson claims Peters also houses the township’s printer – Peters maintains the township would have to create an office for Dickson if voters elect him.
Dickson’s home along Shabbona Road isn’t fit as a place to conduct business, Peters wrote, alleging Dickson’s property constitutes blight, and maintaining that would require the township to pay to create an office where Dickson could work as clerk.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org